At the Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, you could find a swimming superstar in just about every corner of the cavernous CHI Arena. Elite athletes were cutting through V3’s future 50-meter pool, trying to sprint their way onto the 53-member Summer Games squad. Former Olympians, groundbreaking legends, could also be spotted, if you knew who you were looking for.
For example, Rowdy Gaines swam his way into Olympic history before becoming the voice of USA Swimming. He knows an awful lot about the trials, and the pool used to find Olympians.
“We’re used to swimming in front of like 13 people, not 7,000, so yeah it’s a pretty neat situation to have this for our sport and to have a pool that’s so well-built obviously. And so fast! I mean, we’ve already seen some American records and we’re going to see a bunch more along the way. It can be electric tonight. God, Katie Ledecky is swimming dude,” Gaines remarked.
Gaines, sitting next to NBC’s Mike Tirico, called the trials action from about 20 rows up from the pool deck. Not far behind the broadcasters, a V3 team member spotted another swimmer you might have heard of.
“I look over, I take three different takes and I’m like yeah, I think that’s Michael Phelps. So, he was about to leave cause he was going to leave early trying to dodge fans and stuff. So then I was like, can I get a photo? And he was like of course he can get a photo. Pretty awesome experience. Very fun experience,” Aaron Blasingame, the son of the architect who will design the V3 Center, explained. Blasingame and two other youth members of the V3 contingent also scored autographs from perhaps the most decorated swimmer in the history of the sport.
Another priceless photo opportunity? Gold Medalist Cullen Jones, who helped break the color barrier in the sport, visited with the V3 team to show his support for the organization’s mission to end drowning disparities and provide everyone with access to lifesaving swimming lessons.
“It is so important that people understand how to find access. And you know, now with Minneapolis taking this step, I need other cities to do the same thing. We don’t need to be filling up pools, we need to be opening up pools. I come from humble beginnings, almost drowning at five at an amusement park. (Then) I started getting into swimming when I was eight, after going through five teachers and different coaches. But then when I got into it, I was hooked. But the problem was that I had to take two buses to get there every single day,” Jones recalled.
“To know that they’re going to have one of the greatest pools in the history of the sport in their backyard is something that is really, really special.”
— Rowdy Gaines, Olympic Gold Medalist & Voice of USA Swimming
That’s what V3 means when leaders talk about access. Instead of people traveling out to the suburbs to find year-round places to learn how to swim, soon they’ll be able to find an accessible and affordable venue at the corner of Plymouth and Lyndale Avenues North.
“It means a lot to our sport to be able to reach out to those, especially to those underserved communities that would never have that opportunity. And then to know that they’re going to have one of the greatest pools in the history of the sport in their backyard is something that is really, really special,” Gaines concluded.